Ireland, Paek to return to Griffins

The Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on Tuesday announced that head coach Greg Ireland and assistant coach Jim Paek have signed contract extensions through the 2007-08 season.

Under their guidance, the Griffins captured the AHL’s 2005-06 Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular season champions, posting a 55-20-1-4 mark and setting franchise records for wins and points (115). Following a regular season in which it earned the third-most victories in league history, Grand Rapids defeated Toronto (4-1) and Manitoba (4-3) in the North Division playoffs before falling to Milwaukee (0-4) in the Western Conference Finals.

Ireland, 40, was elevated to the head coaching position on Feb. 10, 2005, after having served as the team’s assistant coach since the start of the 2003-04 season. Despite recording an impressive stretch run (17-13-1-1) under their newly named coach, the 2004-05 Griffins became the only team in the AHL’s 70-year history to win more than 40 games (41-35-2-2) and still be excluded from the playoffs.

Ireland’s cumulative record as the Griffins’ head coach stands at 72-35-5 during the regular season, giving him the highest winning percentage (.665) of the team’s six head coaches.

As an assistant with Grand Rapids during the 2003-04 season, Ireland helped construct a Griffins defense that allowed a franchise-low 166 goals, placing fourth in the AHL at just 2.08 per game.

Paek, 39, begins his second season behind the Griffins’ bench. He won consecutive Stanley Cup championships as a defenseman with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992, and tallied 34 points (5-29—34) and 155 penalty minutes in 217 NHL games with Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Paek became the first Korean to both play in the NHL and have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. In recognition of those accomplishments, Paek’s Penguins jersey is displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

While in Pittsburgh, he was named the team’s 1992 rookie of the year and was the co-winner of its 1993 community service award.